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Legislative Process

Legislative Branch of Government

  • Kentucky's present Constitution, adopted in 1891 and amended several times since, contains a number of provisions that govern the legislative branch.
  • These provisions define session dates, legislative districts, terms and qualifications of office, the conduct of legislative business, legislative leadership, and legislative support staff.
Session Dates
  • The General Assembly meets annually in Frankfort, convening on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January.
  • In even-numbered years, sessions may not last more than 60 legislative days, and cannot extend beyond April 15. In odd-numbered years, sessions may not last more than 30 legislative days, and cannot extend beyond March 30.
  • A "legislative day" is defined as a calendar day, excluding Sundays, legal holidays, and any day on which neither house meets.
  • Special Sessions may be called by the Governor to deal with specific subjects. There is no time limit, but special sessions are usually brief.

Rules and Committees, adopted separately by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, when the General Assembly meets in Session, serve as a code governing the proceedings of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively,  and their committees.
New Rules may be adopted at the beginning of each Session

Legislative Districts
  • The General Assembly is required to divide the state into 38 Senate districts and 100 House districts.
  • Districts must be as nearly equal in population as possible, and although Section 33 of the Constitution prohibits the addition of a part of one county to another in defining a district or the joining of more than two counties to make a Representative district, a federal District Court has held that these provisions must give way to the standard of equality of representation required by the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution and also in Section 33.
  • A 1994 Kentucky Supreme Court decision (Fisher v. State Board of Elections, et al) recognized that counties must be split to achieve population equality to accommodate both principles to the extent permissible under federal law.
  • The counties forming a district must be contiguous, according to Section 33. Districts must be reviewed every 10 years and be re-divided if necessary.

Terms and Qualifications
  • be at least 30 years old;
  • be a citizen of Kentucky;
  • have resided in the state at least 6 years and in the district at least 1 year prior to the election.
Senators are elected for four-year terms, with half the Senate elected every two years.

  • be at least 24 years old;
  • be a citizen of Kentucky;
  • have resided in the state at least 2 years and in the district at least 1 year prior to the election.
Representatives are elected for two-year terms in November following the regular session of the General Assembly. The entire House is elected at the same time.

Legislative Leadership
The President and the President Pro Tem are elected by the full membership of that body.

House of Representatives
The Speaker of the House and the Speaker Pro Tem are elected by the full membership of that body.

Legislative Party Leaders - Senate and House
Floor leaders, Caucus chairs and Whips - are selected by Democratic and Republican caucuses in both chambers during the organizational portion of the odd year session. These members are responsible for seeing that the interests of their parties are well served.

Legislative Support Staff
  • The Constitution also specifies constitutional officers to carry out clerical and support activities for the General Assembly.
  • Among these are the Chief Clerks elected by each chamber, responsible for minutes of sessions, roll calls, bill calendars, recording committee assignments, certifying the passage of bills and resolutions, and the official Journal of each chamber.
  • The Sergeants-at-arms clear unauthorized persons from the floor of the House and Senate before each session and as otherwise directed; compel the attendance of members sent for by the House; direct the delivery of mail, supervise the pages, and clear the galleries if there is a disturbance.
  • Other officers authorized by the constitution include doorkeepers, pages, janitors, and cloakroom keepers.


Interims between sessions
The General Assembly is organized into standing committees with different jurisdictions during regular session. The work of standing committees concludes when the regular session is adjourned. 

The period of time from that adjournment to the convening of the next regular session is known as the Interim. In an Interim (June to December), the work of the General Assembly is accomplished in committees. Committees active between sessions may be two types:

  1. Interim joint committees formed from the standing committees of both houses. For instance, the Education Committee of the Senate and the Education Committee of the House become the Interim Joint Committee on Education after the regular session.
  2. Special committees that are appointed by the LRC and function primarily during the Interim, usually to study a specific topic. Examples include the Tobacco Task Force, and the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.
All committees which meet during the Interim may discuss issues, prefile bills, and forward recommendations to the LRC and the General Assembly. All committee meetings are open to the public and the press. More committee information

Statutory committees that are authorized by the Kentucky Revised Statutes or function as subcommittees of the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) may meet year round. The Government Contract Review Committee, for example, is authorized by statute to examine the contracts let by state government agencies to non-governmental entities. 

How A Bill Becomes Law

Introduction and Committee Referral:
  • A bill may be introduced in the House or Senate.
  • Each bill is assigned a number, read by title and sponsor, and referred to a standing committee by the Committee on Committees.

Committee Consideration:
  • Committee meetings are open to the public.
  • When there is sufficient interest in a subject, a public hearing is held.
  • A bill may be reported out of committee with one of the following reports: favorable, favorable with amendments, favorable with committee substitute, unfavorable, or without opinion.
  • A committee can kill a bill by failing to act on it.

First Reading
  • When a committee reports a bill favorably, the bill is given its first reading and is placed in the Calendar for the following day.

Second Reading and then to Rules:
  • The bill is read by title a second time and sent to the Rules Committee.
  • The Rules Committee may recommit the bill or place it in Orders of the Day for a specific day.

Third Reading and Passage:
  • "I move that House Bill 100 be taken from the Orders of the Day, read for the third time by title only, and placed upon its passage." This motion, usually by the majority floor leader, is adopted by voice vote, and the floor is open for debate.
  • Following debate and amendments, a final vote on the bill is taken.
  • To pass, a bill must be approved by at least two-fifths of the members of the chamber (40 representatives or 16 senators) and a majority of the members present and voting.
  • If the bill contains an appropriation of funds or an emergency clause, it must be approved by a majority of the members elected to each house (51 representatives and 20 senators).
What Happens Next?
  • If a bill is defeated, another vote is not likely unless two members who voted against it request its reconsideration, and a majority approves.
  • If a bill passes in one house, it is sent to the other chamber, where it follows much the same procedure.
  • Both houses must agree on the final form of each bill.
  • If either house fails to concur in amendments, the differences may be reconciled by a "conference committee" of senators and representatives.
  • Changes agreed to by this conference committee are subject to approval by both houses.
  • After passage by both houses, a bill is read carefully to make sure the final wording is correct.
  • The bill is signed by the presiding officer of each house and sent to the Governor.

Governor's Action:
  • The Governor may sign a bill, permit it to become law without signature, or veto it.
  • The Governor has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to act on a bill after it is received.
  • The bill may be passed over the Governor's veto by a majority of the members of both houses.

Tracing Legislative History

Step 1
Your legislative history research should begin with a Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) number. For example:
  • KRS 342.817

Step 2
Go to the history portion at the end of the statute and find the Kentucky Acts chapter and year:
  • Created 1994 Ky. Acts ch. 181, Part 12, sec. 47, effective April 4, 1994.

Step 3
Go to the Kentucky Acts to identify the bill's sponsor and locate the Senate or House bill number at the chapter heading.
  • CHAPTER 181
  • HB 928

Step 4
Use the Final Legislative Record to find the legislative committee(s) to which the bill was assigned.
  • Mar 3 - to Labor & Industry
  • Mar 8 - reported favorably
  • Mar 17 - received in Senate
  • Mar 18 - to Labor & Industry
  • Mar 22 - reported favorably

Step 5
Check with the Legislative Research Commission library to see if the committee minutes were taped during the session. *
Audiotapes may be copied for $5.00 each or you may listen to them in the library. 
The LRC Public Information Office may have a video of the committee meeting.

Step 6
Committee minutes may reflect the names of people who discussed a bill and the votes taken on the bill. 
These are available in the Legislative Research Commission library.

Step 7
House and Senate Journals can then be used to trace the action of the bill on chamber floors. These journals will show votes, amendments, and floor action on the bill. 

  • House - HB 928 (Mar 30) Yeas 90 Nays 6
  • Senate - HB 928 (Mar 30) Yeas 23 Nays 15
* Senate and House committee hearing audiotapes are made at the discretion of the committee chairman. These tapes are not transcribed. Videotapes are made of the floor sessions by Kentucky Educational Television. Videotapes, beginning with the 1992 regular session, may be viewed in the Legislative Research Commission library, or purchased for $10/tape. 

Click here for Legislative Research Commission Library information available in support of your research.

LRC Publications Related to the Legislative Process

The LRC offers a number of publications that will help you participate more effectively in the legislative process, including:

  • Shows the daily status of all bills and resolutions when the General Assembly is in session.
  • Final executive action on each bill is also recorded.

  • Provides a monthly update, between sessions, with information about the Commission and interim committees.

  • Contains weekly notices of committee meetings and agenda information during the interim.
  • It is provided at no charge and may be subscribed to for weekly email distribution.

  • Is a pictorial booklet with a brief biography of each legislator.

  • Contains all bills and all joint and concurrent resolutions enacted during a session in the order that they were filed with the Secretary of State.
  • Reference aids are included to assist users, including a disposition table that shows where all codified material has been placed in the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS).

  • Contain the official daily records of proceedings in each chamber during a session.
  • Roll call votes and actions on motions are shown in these volumes.

  • Contains summaries of all bills and resolutions delivered to the Governor each session

  • Compilation of regulations proposed by administrative agencies of the Commonwealth and serves as public notice of such proposed regulations.
  • Published monthly.

  • Contains regulations promulgated by administrative agencies and in effect as of July of each year.
  • Published annually

  • Provides a summary of the proposals discussed and acted upon by each joint and special committee during the interim.
  • Published a few weeks prior to the convening of the regular session of the General Assembly.